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May 5, 2014

Eagles complete season sweep of rival Bulldogs

MEADVILLE — The last time Crawford County rivals Conneaut and Meadville went head-to-head on the baseball diamond, it was the quintessential early-season affair. The two teams combined for 17 base hits, 11 free passes and five defensive errors. After all was said and done, Conneaut somehow managed to hang on for a 9-7 victory.

A little more than a month later the two Region 6 foes met up for a rematch. And although it was a vastly improved in terms of quality of play, the matchup still belonged to the Eagles, who swept the season series over the Bulldogs with a 6-0 victory on Monday at Eldred Glen.

“That was a little better,” said Eagles senior Chris McCann.

This win turned out to be a crucial one for Conneaut, too. Slippery Rock lost to Oil City 4-3 yesterday, which means that Conneaut and the Rock are currently tied for the lead in the region with records of 5-2. CASH is 8-3 overall.

Conneaut has one region game remaining — at Oil City on Wednesday. A win there, and the Eagles clinch at least a share of the league championship. And depending on how the rest of the region games play out, it could be theirs alone by the end of the regular season.

“We do like where we are at,” said Eagles senior Cole Baker at the end of yesterday’s game. “We’ve done all that we can do so far. We’ve just got to win this last region game and we’ll set ourselves up pretty nicely.”

McCann got the start for both games against Meadville. Back in April, he gave up six runs on four hits and walked six over four innings.

This time around, McCann was nearly untouchable. In a complete game effort, the Eagles’ senior lefty twirled a two-hit shutout at the ’Dogs, walking five and striking out five.

“Chris pitched a great game, other than a few walks out there,” said Conneaut head coach Todd Greenawalt. “We were able to keep the lead runner off base and have some pretty successful innings.”

And Conneaut’s “D” played it clean with an error-free effort.

“They made all the routine plays,” said McCann. “They were solid like always.”

Meanwhile, Conneaut’s offense gave McCann plenty of run support.

Meadville freshman Matt Burchard got his first start on the varsity level. And while he would eventually settle in and pitch an admirable game, he showed some jitters early, walking the first two batters.

CASH took advantage of the situation when Cole Baker smacked a double deep to left to bring home one runner. Chase Gallo brought in another on a fielder’s choice. And Baker later scored on a wild pitch to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead.

Conneaut struck for one more in the second inning. Jeremy Santarelli and Damien Granda led the frame off with back-to-back singles. Then Baker recorded his second hit and second RBI of the game with a run-scoring single into left center.

Jordan King later parked two more Eagles runs in the fifth inning. Burchard gave up a lead-off single to Baker — his third hit of the game — and then walked Gallo to put two aboard. Then King, facing reliever Thomas McCloskey — punched a shot up the middle to bring both runners home.

“Once again we did a really good job of hitting with runners in scoring position,” said Greenawalt. “We didn’t make any mistakes on defense. And Chris pitched a really good game. That’s a pretty good recipe to win baseball games.”

McCloskey ended up yielding two hits while striking out three in three innings of relief work.

Burchard took the loss, giving up six runs on six hits with four walks and four Ks over four innings.

“That was (Burchard’s) first varsity start,” said Meadville head coach Bruce Stewart. “He had to get the nerves out that first inning. After that, he settled down and I thought he pitched pretty well. And Thomas did a good job in relief. That’s probably the best he’s thrown all year. I was pleased with the defense and the pitching. We just couldn’t seem to string anything together on offense.”

Meadville’s two hits belonged to Ted Williams, who led off the first with a single but was stranded on third; and Zach Grill, who roped a single to center with two outs in the sixth.

Meadville drops to 3-11 overall and 0-6 in Region 6 with the loss. The Bulldogs have two region games remaining — home against Grove City on Wednesday and then home versus Oil City on May 12.

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